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Zedillo Accused Of Massacre Cover-Up

Publication Date: 
September 21, 2011
Yale Daily News
Drew Henderson, Tapley Stephenson

Professor Jenny Martinez is quoted in the below Yale Daily News article on a new lawsuit accusing former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo of masterminding international crimes against humanity in connection with a 1997 Mexican massacre, and why the plantiff's in the case may have a difficult time connecting Zedillo to the incident.

A lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut on Friday alleges that Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81, former president of Mexico and current director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, violated the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Charter and Mexican common law, among other codes of conduct, while in office.

The civil action suit was initiated by the Miami, Fla., law firm Rafferty, Kobert, Tenenholtz, Bounds & Hess, P.A. on behalf of 10 anonymous plaintiffs who are seeking damages likely to exceed $10 million dollars from Zedillo. The case involves his alleged role in an attack on civilians in the village of Acteal in Chiapas, Mexico, that took place Dec. 22, 1997, during his six-year term as president.


For the 10 plaintiffs to win their case, they will have to prove the connection between Zedillo and the massacre, which could be difficult considering his high ranking position at the time, said Jenny Martinez ’93, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in international courts and tribunals.

“The big issue in cases of this kind is quite often the connection between the defendant and the atrocity,” Martinez said. “The law allows a superior to be held responsible for his subordinates, but factually coming up with the proof of the connection is often what is difficult.”


Martinez said she doubts that the news articles will be admitted in trial, though she added that the evidence as a whole sounds compelling enough to overcome a motion to dismiss the case.

She added that while there have been similar suits successfully brought against defendants living in the United States, most involved generals and other mid- to high-ranking officials, not former presidents. Due to the complexities of laws that apply to former heads of state, Zedillo may be able to claim immunity in the case, Martinez said.

According to Martinez, defendants of alien tort claims sometimes flee the country when they are served with court papers. However, it is rare to find such defendants in prominent university positions when the lawsuits are filed, she added.